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On Home

Orcas Island On Home cancer battle home away from home

"The Hardy Heart" monthly blog - July 2017

In the fall of 2009 I spent a semester of college living in my friend Rachel Safran's parent's basement up on the east bench of Salt Lake City. Mainly I was living with her father Howard, because her mother Cindy worked for the airlines and was traveling a lot. Howard and I were good roomies/buddies, because we both had our man caves: he would chill up in his den with his big screen and surround sound and I would chill down in the basement with my guitars, piano and recording equipment. On a cold Saturday morning, cozy with my coffee in the basement, I finished writing a song I had been working on for a couple of months called "On Home". It chronicled my "throw-everything-I-own-into-my-car" move from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles in 2004 to pursue acting full time, then my move out of the city of angels in 2006 up the coast to Orcas Island with my brother Judd, where several months after getting settled Judd was rushed back to Salt Lake City to receive treatment for an aggressive form of Leukemia. I followed Judd in my car with everything that I owned, making the move from Orcas Island back home to Salt Lake City to be with my brother. After a couple of years of surviving chemotherapy he was finally told his cancer had gone into remission. The song describes this full circle effect of leaving home in search of purpose and ultimately purpose leading one back home. This Friday, my partner in crime Sharon ("Shazzy" to those of you in social media land) and I will pack up the car with black lights, glow body paint, our camping gear, my guitar and a lot of good vibes and hit the road for Washington. We are going to take off early in the morning and drive straight to Spokane to visit Rachel and her amazing partner Dinesh, and run our glow yoga experience "Shaman Dreams" at the yoga, dance and aerial Coil Studio on Saturday August 5th at 7:00pm. Rachel has lived in Spokane for a number of years and I have only visited once, so this trip is definitely over due. We were able to see Rachel and Dinesh this winter in Salt Lake when we all gathered to say goodbye to her father Howard as he passed on from a battle with cancer. Rachel, Howard, Cindy and her sister Sarah have always been a home away from home for me (at times literally) and I cannot wait to see my friend, sit down with a glass of wine and be at home. From Spokane we need to catch a ferry that departs Anacortes for Orcas Island on Monday August 7th at 3:45pm. Rachel once caught this same ferry out to visit me on Orcas Island with our friend Ian Lonsdale in 2006 right before I moved home to be with my brother Judd. I wish her and Dinesh were coming out to Orcas, but as we say good bye to good friends we have more good friends to meet back up with on the island. When Judd and I arrived on Orcas in 2006 we had a place to stay with some family friends, but needed to find a way to make money. Our hosts told us about a hippie resort down the road called "Doe Bay" where everyone smelled like patchouli - sounded like the place for me! When we showed up at Doe Bay to meet with the management we were offered positions as house keepers. I took the job, but Judd turned it down for a personal assistant position he had landed with another woman on the island. One of the first people I met on the job was a kid named Mike Woodside aka "Kads Baker". Mike had a huge, bright green mohawk and brightly colored, punk rock clothing. Little did my shaggy haired, chaco wearing, twenty-one year old self know that I had just met one of my best friends. The fact that both of us could quote the film "Joe Versus the Volcano" from beginning to end was just the tip of the iceberg. Mikey and I were attached at the hip for the rest of my time on Orcas and then when I loaded up my car to head back home, gave each other a big hug, said stay in touch and I'll see you soon. The summer of 2009 just before I moved into the Safran's basement, I quit my jobs in Salt Lake, packed up half of what I owned into the Safran's garage and the other half into my car and headed back for Orcas. I had a vague plan to meet back up with Mikey on the island and find work. When we met up, I was thrilled to once again be with one of my bros, but the recession was in full swing and work was scarce. We were spending nights sleeping in his van at the marina and then driving my car into town to look for work. After a week, Mikey said that he had spoken with a friend Holly Dennis who had her own chai business and that he thought we might be able to stay with her in exchange for work on her property and then find additional work elsewhere. I had met Holly briefly my first summer on the island and was excited at the chance to land a place to call home for the summer. When we showed up to Holly's, I don't think any of us knew what was coming. Holly brews, bottles and sells her own artisan chai called Harmony Chai (the nectar of the gods as Mike and I call it), runs her own landscaping business and caters food once a week at the island farmer's market and other events. Holly's property was already pretty full with a couple of other seasonal workers in her trailer in the back, but she said she was open to trying something out and seeing if it worked. I worked my hardest for Holly, helping out wherever I could, whether it was cleaning her house, whipping up hummus for her infamous falafel wraps, or working her farmer's market booth. The thing about Holly is that you give her your best and she gives you her best and then a whole lot more. I found a sister that summer who has come to mean the world to me. We hustled hard and had such a blast doing it. July of 2015, when I organized a week long yoga retreat at Doe Bay with about thirty folks, her "Hollyness" of Harmony Chai was our caterer for the event. We ate so well and drank so much Harmony Chai. Doe Bay has a summer music festival that gets bigger and bigger each year it runs called Doe Bay Fest. Holly sets up her Harmony Chai booth at the festival and feeds a ton of people. In 2014, the summer before I had scheduled my yoga retreat, I came out to meet with the Doe Bay management to nail down retreat details and ended up getting to work a couple of days of Doe Bay fest with Holly. Again, we worked super hard and had a total blast. I last saw Holly in 2015 when we were packing up my car after the yoga retreat. We gave each other a big hug, said stay in touch and I'll see you soon. On Monday when Sharon and I drive on to Orcas Island, we are headed to stay with my sister from another mister Holly and help her work the Harmony Chai booth at Doe Bay Fest. Our glow yoga experience"Shaman Dreams" will also get a run on Orcas while we are there - details coming soon! And then there is the reunion with Mike and his little brother Russ. My family has an annual gathering in the desert of Southern Utah that Mike and Russ have made it to several times (Holly made it one year). I saw both of these boys last summer in the desert and between that trip and this reunion, their mother Darlene passed away in one of her homes away from home, Hawaii. Darlene was such a loving being and talented artist. I had the chance to talk with Russ and Mike over the phone when they were in Hawaii saying goodbye to Darlene, but next week will be my first chance to be with them in person since her passing. I cannot wait to see my friends, sit down with a glass of iced Harmony Chai, and be at home.'s to that magical, necessary feeling of home. A feeling we are always arriving to, being at and departing from. Which for me brings to mind a quote that David Bowie left us with before he passed on from his battle with cancer: "The truth of course is, that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time." Much Love, James

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